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Cover Story: Local street artist SPEAK CRYPTIC on NFTs and how streetwear inspires him

Whether you’re attuned to Singapore’s art scene or not, SPEAK CRYPTIC is a name you’ve definitely heard of.

Farizwan Fajari, who goes by SPEAK CRYPTIC, is one of Singapore’s most popular street artists, and his distinctive art style of black and white figures has seen itself in the likes of galleries, The Substation, The Projector, and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. As of late, however, the contemporary artist has taken on a new challenge — by creating his art in the form of NFTs. Fact: he’s also one of the pioneers in the NFT art scene here in Singapore.

Which is why we’ve commissioned two pieces of art with him for our inaugural digital cover with one of the biggest names in the fashion industry, Balenciaga, who regularly presents bold and innovative designs — just like SPEAK CRYPTIC himself.

In light of this three-way collaboration, we sat down with the contemporary artist to understand more about what inspires his art, his work in the NFT sphere, as well as how he married the concept of streetwear and Balenciaga with his personal style for Lifestyle Asia Singapore’s cover.

speak cryptic
Farizwan Fajari, also known as Speak Cryptic

What artists of the past or present have inspired you?

At the very core, I am just inspired by people who do art, but some of my personal favourites include Jean Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, and Barry McGee. I am also quite inspired by people who are not necessarily visual artists, but musicians and writers as well.

Your work is pretty distinctive. Walk us through how you came up with your style and how you explored more of it.

I think my style is a product of my struggle with the pencil, meaning that I don’t think that I was born to draw or was told that I was talented in art when I was growing up. I just love making images and creating stuff. It is when I’m the most comfortable. And over the years, I guess what you see is what shows up. I’m always trying to be better, though, striving to bridge that gap between what I see in my head and what ends up on the canvas a little closer every day.

What are the stories behind some of your work?

I derived the stories from my day to day. I get inspired by the randomness of life, but it is all centred and anchored through the lenses of my identity.

Personally, are there any subject matters you are passionate about conveying through your art?

Creating images, for me, is the same as talking or writing; it is a valid form of communicating ideas, feelings. And I’m just trying to tell stories through the images while striving for clarity.

For many creatives, working their way through a blank page is always the hardest. How did you marry the concept of streetwear and Balenciaga with your personal style for this cover?

I began the artwork, intending to show the “self”. I believe in this idea that we are what we wear, and since my practice explores issues pertaining to identities, that is how I approached it. There was some planning involved, but a lot of it happened in my head. It’s not unusual for me to sit on a picture that started in my mind’s eye for weeks on end before I do anything about it.

How does streetwear inspire you?

It is an extension of the self, and it is a valid way to express ourselves. And that has always inspired me.

What’s your favourite sneaker from Balenciaga now and why?

It has to be the Paris High Top Sneakers. I’m quite fond of the classic look.

NFTs are the talk of the town these days, and you’re involved in the sphere as well. How has NFTs changed the way you practice your craft?

NFTs has allowed me to show my more digital based works, but it hasn’t really changed how I practiced art, to be honest. Although, because of it, I was able to meet an entire community of other amazing artists, which to me, was the best part.

speak cryptic

With this new system, buying/collecting art has become more accessible to larger groups of people. Yet, with all new technology, there’s always some hesitation. Were there any apprehensions on your part?

Not at all. I’ve always been open to new ideas to show art and thought that the NFT space was a good way to expand my audience. There was a steep learning curve, however, being someone who is not a crypto native, so that was the hardest part. 

Being an artist in Singapore (or just about anywhere really) isn’t the easiest career path to follow through. What were some of the obstacles you faced? What advice would you give to the younger generation looking to embark on something similar?

It’s difficult, but not much of the things that are worth doing in life are easy. Doing art is what I’ve always wanted to do since I was 14. It was all I thought about. I was obsessed and still am. And I felt I needed to have that to get to where I wanted to be. But it is different for other people. So self-awareness is key. And also consistency. You’ll need to put in the work every day. Be patient, be kind, and respect the process.

Cover Story: Local street artist SPEAK CRYPTIC on NFTs and how streetwear inspires him

Jocelyn Tan

Senior Writer

Jocelyn Tan is a travel, food and design writer who loves to explore lesser-known cities abroad and chat with locals about their favourite eats in town. When she's not writing, she's probably indulging in serial killer podcasts or reading one too many books on East Asian history.


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